India firm, 2 Italians held for murdering fishermen
Indian diplomacy ended four days of Italian defiance on Sunday, allowing the Kerala Police to arrest two members of Italian ship Enrica Lexie's security team who allegedly shot dead two fishermen off the state's coast on Wednesday. HT reports.Updated: Feb 20, 2012 09:52 IST
Indian diplomacy ended four days of Italian defiance on Sunday, allowing the Kerala Police to arrest two members of Italian ship Enrica Lexie's security team who allegedly shot dead two fishermen off the state's coast on Wednesday.
Marines Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, part of the six-member security detail of the ship - from the Italian navy - were arrested nearly eight hours past the 8am deadline set by the police for the ship's authorities to turn them over.
"They will be handed over to the Kollam Police and produced before a magistrate," Ernakulam range inspector general of police K Padmakumar said.
Though the police had sought the custody of six people, they later zeroed in on the two for the killing of fishermen Ajesh Binki, 25, and Jalastein, 45.
The Italians had fired on their boat after mistaking them for pirates.
The breakthrough came after the Centre rejected arguments offered by a special Italian delegation in New Delhi to stave off the arrests.
The Indian side insisted that the ship's crew would have to face trial in India.
Kochi city police commissioner MR Ajith Kumar and his team reached the ship, berthed in Kochi port, in the morning and started quizzing the accused. Italian consular general Giampaolo Cutillo was present when the arrest took place.
A murder case was registered against them at Neendakara costal police station. The arrested will be questioned at Kochi police club and later produced before the magistrate. A team of eminent lawyers is camping in the city to assist Italian authorities.
Though the police had sought the custody of six crew members later they zeroed in on two, believed to be Italian navy commandos, who fired at unarmed fishermen.
“If needed we will add more after questioning the arrested,” a senior police office said when asked about this.
“It was so cumbersome and irritating. Since diplomatic strings were attached we showed utmost restraint and patience,” the officer said ridiculing the Italian authorities delay tactics showing flimsy reasons.
Throughout the talks Italian authorities insisted that India could not take action against them as the incident occurred in international water.
However its claim did not wash with the regional commander of Coast Guard (west), inspector general SPS Basra, who said the fishing boat was in Indian exclusive zone when it was fired upon.
Kerala director general of police Jacob Punoose also maintained that the firing took place in Indian waters and the country has every right to book them under Indian laws.
After the firing the Indian Navy and Cost Guard vessels had escorted the 58,000 tonne merchant vessel — carrying crude oil and cargo from Egypt to Singapore — to the Kochi Port. The ship’s crew includes 19 Indians.
The ball started rolling after the Prime Minister’s office sought a report from both home and external affairs ministries and Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy toughened his posture calling it a ‘cold-blooded murder.’
The CM said the state would not allow the culprits to go scot-free and gave enough indications that the accused would be arrested soon.
First Published: Feb 19, 2012 11:17 IST